Composta – a plant pot and worm bin in one!

I love my worm farms and have two, happily churning away my food scraps. I have two bottomless pots in my wicking garden and feed compost worms in one then the other to encourage them to move throughout the garden doing their busy best for the soil. However, I have just found a great new worm farm that is an attractive large plant pot with a worm tower in the centre. Composta will be a welcome addition to my edible garden.

Unique worm farm. Great Australian design. Composta Australia.

The plant pot is large and attractive and the worm tower is placed in the centre before filling the pot section with potting mix. The worms are added to the tower along with vegetable scraps. You are then ready to plant your choice of plants so that they can take advantage of the benefits of the hard working worms who will venture throughout the pot and break down your vegetable scraps and replace them with high value worm castings. The unique drainage system ensures that the worms will not be drowned in the event of rain or if you add water to the pot. You can put a container under the drain hole to collect the liquid for your garden or other pots, too.

I was quite impressed with my Composta when it arrived and the grandchildren are excite to get it started and planted out on their next visit. When I looked through the gallery on the Composta site, I had to buy another one for my beans and peas. With the addition of poles or a cone plant trainer

These would make great presents for fledgling and experience gardeners alike and the large pot will hold a good supply of herbs, flowers, strawberries, greens or whatever you decide to plant.

Ok, this is not the most frugal of ideas and many would say that they can create something similar with a little DIY inspiration, but this kit is ideal for many people who want to grow a few plants and reduce their waste a little, in an attractive and easy to manage system.

The unit comes with removable legs. I believe I will use these on my herb garden which will be outside my back door ready for the last minute dashes I inevitably do for herbs for meals. I never seem to remember until I am cooking that I needed a bit of this or a stalk of that and then it is off to the cupboard to find the torch and wander around in the back yard, visiting the garden.

I usually let most of my herbs go to seed so that I can have a supply of seeds for planting (such as lettuce, rocket and baby spinach) or for cooking (such as coriander and fennel seeds), so I will probably still plant herbs and greens elsewhere. Having a supply near the house for easy picking will be a pleasure and, when we get chickens in the very near future, will allow me to leave some garden herbs to them as payment for their digging over and de-bugging.

As for my beans, the Composta will work wonderfully sitting on my garden near fruit trees and with no need for the legs provided. The wormy goodness will be washed into the main garden to fertilise and add healthy micro-organisms around my edibles. I can’t wait!

I’ll post more personal pics as my Compostas progress and update with tips or info that I might learn along the way.

DISCLAIMER: This is merely the opinion of my humble self and BetR2 does not sell any products or have any relationship to products mentioned here.

I just like them!



Update on Tamarillo Chutney made in March

Update on Tamarillo Chutney made in March

As my entire excuse for procrastination (here, at least) is that I only want to give information that is tried and tested, I thought I better give an update on my Tamarillo Chutney.

I left the chutney for three months to allow the flavours to mellow (as is, apparently, the golden rule of Chutney making).

Tamarillo Chutney

Tamarillo Chutney

The results: we are very happy with the easy to eat, quite sweet, fruity chutney. Today we had a little platter of crackers, homemade rocket pesto, creamed cheese with chives and sundried tomatoes, sliced cornbeef, cucumber and tomato with a small dish of this chutney. Lovely family moment. Oops, forgot to take a pic for you, sorry.

Can’t wait until the Tamarillo Tree fruits again so I can make a bigger batch of chutney (and of that amazing jam)

You can’t put chocolate in that!!

You can’t put chocolate in that!!

Just cooked the craziest meal. Mexican Molé that I saw on Good Chef Bad Chef re-runs. I’d call it shit on a stick, except it was a sauce.


You can see the original recipe on Good Chef, Bad Chef (as it isn’t mine) but the recipes on the site are obviously an after-thought to the show and are always missing ingredients and/or method. If you haven’t seen the show (or the comments on the recipe don’t set you straight) you wouldn’t have a hope. I keep going back to the show site, though, as they do do some interesting recipes from opposite ends of the food scale – he is a chef who wants to eat meat, butter, lard and lots of it and she is a nutritionist? who makes lots of vegan, vegetarian and ‘good for you’ food. This recipe is one of his, but surprisingly healthy with only a few tiny adjustments.

I will write out the recipe (to the best of my memory) and link back to this story for you. In the meantime, I did comment on the recipe on the site which might help you. I only forgot to say that the chicken is cooked in the first lot of stock and you may not need all the second lot of stock or ‘tomato sauce’ (passata or spaghetti sauce, not just ketchup), just add ’til a sauce consistency.

* Warning, this show is meant to be a mock confrontation between good and bad eating so if you are passionately vegan best avoid.

Tantalising Tamarillo Jam

Tantalising Tamarillo Jam

My favourite thing to do with Tamarillos is jam and I have to share this wonderful recipe that was given to YaYa by her friend Connie. This is now the jam I will make tons of when I next have fruit on my tree.

Waiting on the last of the Yellow Tamarillos to ripen

Waiting on the last of the Yellow Tamarillos to ripen

I decided to add two apples to my eight small Tamarillos because I desperately wanted to make more of this very promising recipe. For the same reason, and because I despise waste, I did not remove the seeds of the Tamarillos, just the skins and the little hard white bit at the top of the fruit and the tiny hard bit on the pointy end of a few. I normally leave the skins on apples when cooking, but decided this jam would benefit from peeled apples.

Peeled Tamarillo with hard spot at top removed

Peeled Tamarillo with hard spot at top removed

What a glorious smell while this was cooking! Absolutely glorious jam. I only got 2 small jars, but they will be savoured.

Tamarillo, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

Yield approx 1 1/4 cups (1 3/4 cup if apple added)
6-8 tamarillos, peeled and finely cubed (remove seeds if preferred)
2 apples, cored,  peeled and finely cubed (optional)
1 vanilla pod split in half
2 lemons juiced and then strained
1-2 teaspoons of rosewater or orange flower water
approx 2 cups of caster sugar (see below)
  • Sterilise 3 small jars (I always sterlise more than I need, you might only use two).
  • Put a small plate in the fridge to cool down. You will use this later, when testing whether the jam has reached a set.
Tamarillos cut for jam

Tamarillos cut for jam

  • Peel the Tamarillos and cut fairly small. I had small Tamarillos so merely sliced and then quartered the slices. If you don’t want seeds in the jam, scoop them out with a spoon before dicing the Tamarillos.
  • If using apples, core, peel and dice, a similar size to the Tamarillos. Your fruit will mostly not break down while cooking, and will be visible in the pretty finished product, so a little care here will make a difference later
Apple cut in fine cube - I used Bonza apples

Apple cut in fine cube – I used Bonza apples

  • Put the chopped fruit into a heavy saucepan, scrape the seeds of the vanilla pod into the pan and add the pods themselves.
  • Add water until it just covers the fruit and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the fruit is tender.
  • Cool slightly. Measure the mixture.
Measure the fruit to calculate sugar needed

Measure the fruit to calculate sugar needed

  • Return to the saucepan and, for every 1 cup of cooked fruit, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar and the juice of one lemon.
  • Bring to a medium boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and it sets when tested.
  • When the jam is ready, take it off the heat and cool for a few minutes before stirring in the rosewater or orange flower water.
  • Bottle in warm, sterilised jars and seal.

To test, spoon a little jam onto the cold plate and allow it to cool. If you push the cooled jam and it has formed a skin which wrinkles, it is ready. If not keep testing every few minutes. As it is getting closer, you might like to take the saucepan off the heat while testing, so you don’t overcook it while carrying out the test.

Ya Ya mentioned in the original recipe, “The jam may look a little too liquid but will further thicken when it cools in the jar.” Even though it looked runny and didn’t seem to be setting on the cold plate test, I bottled as the jam was starting to darken. The set is maybe even a little too much. So, if you are second guessing yourself, worry not; all will be ok.

You can put the vanilla pods in the jars with the jam, if you like the look. I suggest you cut the pod into several smaller pieces at the beginning to make this easier. I think because I added the apple or because I cooked the jam a little longer, I couldn’t really see the pod in my jar, only where it touched the glass.

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

I would love to put this jam into those tiny jars you get in gourmet gift baskets and give some to everyone I know.

Grow it; Eat it; Tasty Tamarillos

Grow it; Eat it; Tasty Tamarillos

Following on from my previous discussion about Tamarillo trees, I thought I’d share a few ideas for using the Tamarillo fruit. I, personally, want as many Tamarillos as I can get my hands on in the jam pot, so don’t look for other uses much now. I can’t imagine buying Tamarillos at the fruit shop just to eat raw, but I think everyone should at least try them.

I once had a red Tamarillo tree (in a past garden life) and currently have a yellow (or gold) one. The fruit of the yellow Tamarillo is a little sweeter when ripe then the red one, though sweetness seems to differ from tree to tree and fruit to fruit.

Yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

Yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

The Tamarillo is a relative of the tomato (nightshade/potato family) and has something of a tomato taste, but with a good shot of passionfruit flavour added. A ripe Tamarillo is succulent and fragrant, though the taste is one that some find hard to acquire.

It can be eaten straight from the tree. Simply, scoop the fruit out with a spoon or peel, as the skin is quite leathery and bitter (Sounds like me on a bad day). Enjoy, with or without added sugar. Put it on your toast or even slice on a sandwich or wrap instead of tomato.

You can cut Tamarillos in half and grill them on the barbeque; add them to pizzas, salads, stir fries and casseroles or to kebabs sticks.

There are a lot more ideas and recipes (four pages actually) at Te Oranga Tamarillos (a New Zealand site). I made the simple Tamarillo Chutney recipe from this site:

Tamarillo Chutney

(I have added my notes as the recipe was a little short on details, experienced cooks will follow their normal preserving procedures, of course)

Tamarillo Chutney

Tamarillo Chutney

Should make approx 4 1/2 cups (I made a small batch, just to try it out – 8 tamarillos which made 1 1/2 cups).

24 peeled and sliced Tamarillos
6 apples
6 onions
4 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice (the original recipe stated mixed allspice. I went with ground allspice – pimentos)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups vinegar (whichever you prefer. I used malt vinegar)

Tamarillo Chutney ingredients

Tamarillo Chutney ingredients

  1. Place chopped Tamarillos, onions and apples in a heavy based saucepan. Mix in other ingredients and boil for approx one hour, until the chutney appears thick.
  2. Run a wooden spoon across the top of the chutney, making a channel. The channel should remain for a few seconds when it is ready.
  3. Bottle in warm sterilised jars and seal tightly with lid.

Tips and Tricks:

It is easy to remove skins from Tamarillos if you pop them in boiling water for a few seconds (the same as you would for skinning tomatoes). If they have their stems still attached, it is easy to get them out, but tongs work, too.

Skin by putting in boiling water for a few secs

Skin by putting in boiling water for a few secs

Then simply peel by putting a small slit in the skin with a paring knife (my hubby tells me I can only use those for pears) and the skin will easily lift away.

Peeling Tamarillo

Peeling Tamarillo

As the chutney cools, you should hear a distinct pop as the jar seals. If, once the chutney is cool, the lid clicks when you press it, you have not achieved a proper seal. It will be best to put that one in the fridge and consume it first.

If you don’t have enough brown sugar (this happened to me), you can substitute white sugar (though the colour of the chutney will be lighter) or you can add 1 tablespoon of molasses (preferable black strap – the chutney doesn’t care, but it is better for you) to each cup of granulated sugar (I used raw sugar). Stir thoroughly to mix.

Mix sugar and molasses as substitute for brown sugar

Mix sugar and molasses as substitute for brown sugar

Store the sealed bottles in a cool, dry, dark area.

Most chutneys need to be left for at least three months before eating so the flavours can mellow and improve. Eating immediately isn’t recommended as the vinegar will still be overpowering. I have no idea how to tell whether this chutney needs to be set aside or not, so I’ll err on the side of yum and wait.

Worth the wait?: see the update
Well, that’s it for all the other uses of Tamarillos. Next post will be my new favourite jam recipe.

Two Bills That Changed My Life

I would like to pay tribute to two men; coincidentally, both named Bill.

The first is a man of quiet and humble ways. A deep thinker who plans things through and minimises his impact on the planet while making a difference.

He opened his home and heart to us while we were building our own home and shared his experience of many things in life. I am a different person today for having spent time with him.
He is Bill Paterson: my children’s Grandad; my friend.

Bill Paterson in 1983.

Bill Paterson in 1983.

He introduced me to another Bill; Bill Mollison, the father of Permaculture – through his book Introduction to Permaculture.

I read and was inspired, encouraged and provoked
I read and I made plans and dreams
I and Bill planned and dreamed together
I found things in this book that were not only possible, but were me.

I lived at Bill Paterson’s home twice – once as a young nieve adult, once as a parent of two children. Bill had planted his fruit trees and vegetables on sloping land using swales and homemade mulch and compost. We shared our thoughts, dreams and experiences and added the principals of Permaculture. We both grew in knowledge and understanding.

It has become a life-time dream to sit at the feet of the Father of Permaculture or to establish a self-sufficient acreage home. Sadly, finances have not allowed and I have had to bow to other priorities.

In the meantime I have:

  • Mulched as I pruned;
  • Smoothered manure and compost with paper and mulch (hey, it keeps the smell down in surburbia, too);
  • Tried a few ideas out successfully (and learned lessons from my less successful ideas);
  • Made bigger gardens then I ever thought I could look after alone;
  • Shared my love of the garden with my children – a connection to my own Dad (no longer with us);
  • Eaten fresh and even unusual foods grown with love;
  • Always known my neighbours and have shared my interests and knowledge with them (hard to not keep up with the neighbours if you are desperate for mulch and compost materials or if you have a bountiful harvest);
  • Learned from literally thousands of wonderful people in the Permaculture community mostly via books and the internet.
Bill Mollison life pics

Bill Mollison life pics

I have grown gardens that are:
1) healthy
2) beautiful
3) easy care
4) edible and useful
5) water efficient
6) low on chemicals.
7) encourage bees and butterflies to visit
8) grow snacks for kids
9) grow trees to climb
10) nurture garden worms, good bacteria and microbes
11) look after themselves if I can’t
AND most importantly for me:
12) are simple and affordable… I can take this as shallow or as far as I like!

I am blown away that it can be so easy to do
And that I would never have known – would still be double-digging and weeding (yuk)
If not for the two Bills that changed my life.

Bill Paterson and Bill Mollison
The world is better for having you in it!!! Bless you both xx

The Fragrant Garden, The Tamarillo Tree and Me

The Fragrant Garden, The Tamarillo Tree and Me

Why would anyone grow fruit that they don’t even like to eat? What draws me to this fast growing, fast fruiting and usually quite short lived little fruit tree?

Some of the yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

Some of the yellow Tamarillos harvested March 2013

Many years ago, I was first introduced to Permaculture and the idea that “easy” gardening is better for the soil and for the planet. There was a lovely and inspirational business in our local area which was called The Fragrant Garden. Set on a few acres, with a mud brick building complete with sod roof and waterfall window; amazing and delectable plants that were not available at ‘normal’ nurseries; truly fragrant help-yourself barrels of pot-pourri; beds and planters with informational plaques giving advice and ideas. I never had a lot of money so appreciated being able to buy unique edible plants in teeny pots. The mud brick building was a shop which my children liked, full of fairies and goblins, hand crafts and brick-a-brack. I liked the seed collections; some standard, some a little out-of-the-ordinary.

We often visited The Fragrant Garden and I was creating food forests and picking gardens and vegie plots and keyhole gardens and having all sorts of fun. I had my borrowed mulcher (chipper) and all the prunings went in and straight on the gardens. I worked under the premise that if it wasn’t edible, great for mulch or attracting beneficial insects to the garden, it had no place in my garden. If it had multiple functions, it was a prize.

Gorgeous flowers under an umbrella of large leaves.

Gorgeous flowers under an umbrella of large leaves..

I happened across the Tamarillo tree in it’s tiny pot one day and took it home (along with itsy bitsy carob trees). Planted it in the corner of my garden with my white mulberry, mandarin and macadamia nut trees and off it went. In no time there was a beautiful umbrella shaped tree covered in beautiful flowers, followed by dozens of pendulous fruit. The strange thing is that, of the whole family, only one of my children liked the things straight off the tree. Life’s an adventure

The sod roof was once planted out and the waterfall window spectacular

So I headed off to the local library to pore over recipes, photocopy and head home with ideas to use all these fruit. I can almost taste the jam, even now. Delicious and completely different to the ‘standard’ jams. Sadly, after only two years my tree just died; no idea why. I have yearned for Tamarillo jam ever since. I’ve even bought Tamarillos at the supermarket once or twice to make it. That’s expensive. Sadly, The Fragrant Garden eventually closed, too. My second husband and I were married there on the steps of the beautiful white gazebo, but the place was a shadow of it’s former self by then and closed shortly after.

This tree took quite a battering during a recent heatwave but hung in there.

This tree took quite a battering during a recent heatwave but hung in there.

I recently bought a second tree which was planted May 2012, lopped to approx 1 metre high to encourage branching out and with a bag of Bokashi buried beneath it for slow release soil nourishment. The label said it was a Red Tamarillo, but it definitely has yellow fruit. I think the fruit is a little sweeter than the red and the smell when you cut open a ripe one has a distinct passionfruitiness about it. Although the tree lost many leaves during our recent heat wave, which caused half of the fruit to be burned and drop off, I still got about 30 tamarillos.

What I’ve learned (about the tree itself):

  • Tamarillo (Tree Tomato) is a native of Peru and is a sub-tropical tree which does alright in cooler areas if the temperature stays over about 10 degrees C (50 F).
  • It is a good idea to lop the top of the tree at about one metre to encourage branching out. The tree continues to grow taller while the branches form so the eventually height will be over 2 metres.
  • The tree is a soft wood with big soft leaves and won’t take kindly to constant wind.
  • Young Tamarillo trees need to be protected from frost. Just leave planting until after the chance of frost has past.
  • The trees need water but will not survive being waterlogged. They like a free draining soil. Mine is growing in a raised sheet mulched garden. Otherwise, consider planting on top of a mound or swale.
  • My tree was growing straight and proud when it just started leaning over. Perhaps the weight of the branches, leaves and fruit was enough to tip the scales? Putting a stake either side of the tree and using a wide, soft material tied between the two stakes will support nicely without hurting the stem.
  • Tamarillo trees are easily propogated from seed or from cuttings. Apparently those grown from seed grow taller and where the cutting comes from on the tree will determine the growth of the new tree. I have shoots low on the trunk of my tree (it isn’t a grafted one). I am going to pull these off the tree so they have a ‘heel’ and, although they will probably take if I just plant them in the garden or in good potting mix, I’ll put them in water until I see the roots starting (at least the first time, just to be sure).

I will include some recipes and ideas for using the fruit in another post, soon.

I know why I love Tamarillos; we have history!